MA Playwriting

Year of entry: 2021

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Overview

Degree awarded
Master of Arts
Duration
1 year (full-time)
Entry requirements

We normally expect students to have a First or Upper Second class honours degree or its overseas equivalent in a humanities-based subject area.

Full entry requirements

Number of places/applicants
12 places
How to apply
Apply online

Course options

Full-time Part-time Full-time distance learning Part-time distance learning
MA Y N N N

Course overview

  • Prepare for a writing career in the theatre and performance industries.
  • Learn from practitioners on our vocationally-oriented and industry-focused master's course.
  • Develop skills in writing for performance across a diverse range of contexts, genres and themes.

Open days

Find out what it's like to study at Manchester by visiting us on one of our  open days .

Fees

For entry in the academic year beginning September 2021, the tuition fees are as follows:

  • MA (full-time)
    UK students (per annum): £10,000
    International, including EU, students (per annum): £20,000

Further information for EU students can be found on our dedicated EU page.

Policy on additional costs

All students should normally be able to complete their programme of study without incurring additional study costs over and above the tuition fee for that programme. Any unavoidable additional compulsory costs totalling more than 1% of the annual home undergraduate fee per annum, regardless of whether the programme in question is undergraduate or postgraduate taught, will be made clear to you at the point of application. Further information can be found in the University's Policy on additional costs incurred by students on undergraduate and postgraduate taught programmes (PDF document, 91KB).

Scholarships/sponsorships

Each year the School of Arts, Languages and Cultures offer a number of  School awards  and  Subject-specific bursaries  (the values of which are usually set at Home/EU fees level), open to both Home/EU and international students. The deadline for these is early February each year. Details of all funding opportunities, including deadlines, eligibility and how to apply, can be found on the School's funding page  where you can also find details of the Government Postgraduate Loan Scheme.

See also the University's postgraduate funding database to see if you are eligible for any other funding opportunities.

For University of Manchester graduates, the  Manchester Alumni Bursary  offers a £3,000 reduction in tuition fees to University of Manchester alumni who achieved a 1st within the last three years and are progressing to a postgraduate taught masters course.

The  Manchester Master's Bursary  is a University-wide scheme that offers 100 bursaries worth £3,000 in funding for students from underrepresented groups.

Contact details

School/Faculty
School of Arts, Languages and Cultures
Contact name
PG Taught Admissions
Email
Website
https://www.alc.manchester.ac.uk/centrefornewwriting/
School/Faculty

See: About us

Courses in related subject areas

Use the links below to view lists of courses in related subject areas.

Entry requirements

Academic entry qualification overview

We normally expect students to have a First or Upper Second class honours degree or its overseas equivalent in a humanities-based subject area.

English language

We require an overall grade of 7.0 (with a minimum writing score of 7) in IELTS or 100+ in the iTOEFL with a minimum writing score of 25.

Please contact  MASALC@manchester.ac.uk  if you are unsure if you have taken what The University of Manchester considers to be a Standard English Language Test.

English language test validity

Some English Language test results are only valid for two years. Your English Language test report must be valid on the start date of the course.

Application and selection

How to apply

Advice to applicants

You should include:

  • Three original ideas for stage plays (each 1-2 pages long). Applicants should submit a title for the play and a line of publicity, brief details of staging, genre, and a description of what the play is about;
  • A 500-word statement about why you want to do the MA, including references to plays and live performance that have influenced and interested you;
  • A writing sample (no less than 10 pages, playscript format), to demonstrate that you can write dramatic scenes and dialogue. This writing sample should be a draft of one of the play ideas you are applying with, or of another play or form of live performance. It should demonstrate your potential and ability to create character, lively dialogue and tell a story dramatically;
  • A CV/biography.

If your academic background is not directly related to the programme, you should supply an academic-standard writing sample on a subject related to the programme.

If English is not your native language, then you should provide an academic-standard writing sample in English directly related to the subject.

For more advice on the application process, please visit our  Applying page.

How your application is considered

Applications are mainly considered on the basis of an assessment of past and predicted academic achievements, the academic reference(s) and any other supplementary evidence that supports the application. Once we have an application that is ready for a decision, the admissions tutor (often the Programme Director) will relay the decision to the admissions team, who will send you this decision.

Please note that your application is usually received by the School 24 to 48 hours after the time you submit it. If you have not provided documentation that allows the admissions tutor to make a decision, we will contact you.

Skills, knowledge, abilities, interests

Applicants will be considered on the basis of demonstrable aptitude for and understanding for playwriting and/or creative writing in a relevant industry context.

Deferrals

Applicants may defer entry for 12 months provided they contact  MASALC@manchester.ac.uk  before 1 September.

Please note that applicants are subject to the fees for the entry year they will start the course.

Portfolio requirements

You will need to submit a portfolio of written work, including:

  • three original ideas for stage plays (each 1-2 pages long). Applicants should submit a title for the play and a line of publicity, brief details of staging, genre, and a description of what the play is about;
  • a 500-word statement about why you want to do the MA, including references to plays and live performance that have influenced and interested you;
  • a writing sample (no less than 10 pages, playscript format), to demonstrate that you can write dramatic scenes and dialogue. This writing sample should be a draft of one of the play ideas you are applying with, or of another play or form of live performance. It should demonstrate your potential and ability to create character, lively dialogue and tell a story dramatically;
  • a CV/biography.

Course details

Course description

Our MA Playwriting course is an intensive one-year programme designed to provide a genuine gateway into a writing career in the theatre and performance industries.

Like our successful MA Screenwriting course, the MA Playwriting is taught by practitioners and is vocationally-oriented and industry-focused.

Over the course of the year, you will work with leading industry practitioners to develop your playwriting, pitching and dramaturgical skills. You will learn about and develop skills in writing for performance across a diverse range of contexts, genres and themes.

By the end of the course, you will have developed at least one full-length stage play, a collection of one-act dramas, a full-length festival play and at least one play that adapts elements of a classic text to engage with a contemporary context.

You will have access to individual career guidance and training in how to navigate entry-level writing work in the theatre and performance industries. The course features regular speakers from the industry, including returning alumni who have established successful careers as writers, dramaturgs and producers.

In Semester 1, you will study the basics of playwriting as a craft, with a focus on form and structure. This will include engaging with plays in textual form and in live performance, and the study of plot/story, character, genre, scene development, monologue and dialogue, dramatic action, beginnings, endings, features of staging and audience relationship.

You will study a diverse range of new and historical works, including historical plays that have brought about innovations in dramatic form and structure, as well as new writing staged in Britain and further afield in recent years.

In the second semester, we turn to industry-oriented study, focusing on developing new pieces for festival contexts, and on the skills and resiliencies needed to sustain a living in playwriting.

There will be an industry day based at our studio theatre on campus, with talks from directors, agents, producers, publishers, literary officers and writers.

Special features

Learn from the professionals

You will work with a range of artists, including playwright and screenwriter Tim Price , playwrights Chloë Moss and Anders Lustgarten , and will also be able to access Jeanette Winterson 's weekly seminar for new writers.

The Centre for New Writing has a strong track record of creative writing, and we have one of the leading Drama departments in the UK.

Benefit from a dynamic theatre scene

You will have an opportunity to work as part of an active body of student theatre-makers, performers and producers.

We have long-term relationships with theatres in Manchester, including the Royal Exchange and Contact.

Develop a variety of skills

Two Semester 2 course units - The Festival Play and The Working Playwright - will give you the opportunity to apply essential skills to alternative writing contexts and opportunities.

These units will help you develop your awareness of the employment environments for new writers, and equip you with the know-how to navigate these challenges.

Industry focus

The industry-facing content of Semester 2 is complemented by an industry day based at our on-campus studio theatre, with talks from directors, agents, producers, publishers, literary officers and writers.

Teaching and learning

The course runs over two 12-week semesters, during which you will take part in seminars and writing workshops that engage with the best of contemporary new performance writing. Our 'writer's room' ethos helps to establish an environment that encourages collaboration, experimentation, sharing ideas and risk-taking.

We intend to keep learning as specific to individual needs as possible, and study groups are intentionally small in scale. You are taught through mixture of theatre visits, seminar tasks, interactive exercises and group discussion.

We aim to schedule classes over the course of two consecutive dates to allow for writing development time and seminar preparation in between contact.

In-class time is supported by regular individual tutorials to discuss written work and overall development. You will receive ongoing feedback from course tutors both verbally, in one-to-one sessions, and in writing.

Tutors will offer written and oral feedback on workshop drafts and summative feedback on portfolios and all other written work.

All students will be assigned an academic advisor. You will meet individually with your advisor at least twice each semester. The first meeting will take place in Week 1 of the first semester.

You will be assigned a supervisor for the dissertation and will have at least three individual meetings with your supervisor in May and June. Supervisors will read and comment (orally and in writing) on drafts of the dissertation.

Most units run one day per week over 12 weeks, and there are variations in the number of class hours per teaching day depending on the course/week (ie two to five hours).

As a general rule, a 30-credit course unit includes 300 learning hours, which can be roughly divided into a third in classes or class-related work, a third in independent study and a third in preparation of assignments.

Coursework and assessment

You will be assessed using a variety of methods, including the submission of plays and pitches. See individual course unit details for specific assessment information for each unit.

Course unit details

The MA is made up of five components, adding up to 180 credits in total. You will take two course units in Semester 1, and two units plus the dissertation in Semester 2.

Semester 1

  • Playwriting and form (30 credits)

This unit will cover the relationship between form and content when writing a play.

You will engage with the popular conventions to be found in naturalism, melodrama, farce, verbatim, postdramatic and experimental forms.

Assessment: A one-act play in development (20 pages), and a piece of reflective writing.

Playwriting and structure (30 credits)

This unit will cover the conventions of structure that are useful to consider when writing a play.

We will focus specifically on a five-act structure and will identify the fundamental building blocks for dramatic playwriting.

Assessment: A one-act play in development (20 pages), and a piece of reflective writing.

Semester 2

  • The Festival Play (30 credits)

This unit will focus on the development of plays at festivals of new work, including Edinburgh Festival and Manchester International Festival, as well as smaller-scale events.

The necessary restrictions for new plays in a festival context mean that the unit will be focused on produce-ability, a key challenge for new playwrights. 

Assessment: Full-length play (45-50 pages) + accompanying pitch for a specific festival context.

  • The Working Playwright (30 credits)

This unit will explore power on and off stage, as well as within the theatre industry.

We will interrogate both power between characters and big questions around politics, finance and the environment in order to expand your understanding of the frames within which drama takes place, and sharpen your ability to write driving, meaningful plays.

We will also learn how to discuss, debate and disagree with one another in a mutually respectful but fruitful manner.

You will also learn about practical issues like pitching, working with a dramaturg/producer, working to a commission, professional identity and voice, publicity and promotion, and a host of others.

Assessment: A play that adapts elements of a classic text to a modern-day context (20 pages).

  • Dissertation (60 credits)

This unit is focused on the development and writing of a full-length play, with the theme and form to be decided by the student.

The unit is delivered by a series of writing workshops and one-to-one supervision with course tutors.

Assessment: A full-length play and a portfolio of writing, to include early drafts of key scenes, drafts and redrafts in response to feedback, and the final manuscript.

Course unit list

The course unit details given below are subject to change, and are the latest example of the curriculum available on this course of study.

TitleCodeCredit ratingMandatory/optional
Dissertation (Playwriting) DRAM72000 60 Mandatory
Playwriting: Forms DRAM72111 30 Mandatory
Playwriting: Structures DRAM72211 30 Mandatory
The Festival Play DRAM72312 30 Mandatory
The Working Playwright DRAM72412 30 Mandatory

Facilities

Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester.
The Royal Exchange is one of several theatres in Manchester.

The Martin Harris Centre for Music and Drama boasts state-of-the-art equipment and facilities, including the John Thaw Studio Theatre, the Cosmo Rodewald Concert Hall, and the specialist subject collections of the Lenagan Library.

Staff and students benefit from the outstanding resources provided by the University of Manchester Library, which is the largest university library in Britain outside Oxford and Cambridge, with more than four million printed books and manuscripts, over 41,000 electronic journals and 500,000 electronic books, as well as several hundred databases.

The historic John Rylands Library, on Deansgate, houses the University's special collections and archives, which include historically significant theatre and film resources.

The city of Manchester is the country's third most-visited city after London and Edinburgh. The birthplace of the industrial revolution and now the main headquarters of the BBC, the city continues to build on its rich heritage in the arts through assets such as the iconic multi-arts venue HOME and the biennial Manchester International Festival.

The University campus is home to one of the most innovative theatres for young people operating nationally, Contact Theatre, and the nearby city centre features the leading producing theatre in the North, The Royal Exchange Theatre, with its innovative in-the-round stage design.

Manchester's vibrant theatre scene is supported by energetic producing theatres in the nearby towns of Bolton and Oldham, as well as a rich and diverse fringe scene supported by a network of fringe venues, including the renowned Kings Arms in Salford, Hope Mill in Ancoats and The Edge in Chorlton, among others.

Disability support

Practical support and advice for current students and applicants is available from the Disability Advisory and Support Service. Email: dass@manchester.ac.uk

Careers

Career opportunities

We aim to prepare students for a successful career in playwriting and writing for performance.

You will graduate with a strong sense of your emerging signature as a writer, and also with an ability to write across a range of genres and contexts and in response to specific commissions.

The industry focus of the programme ensures that you will be equipped with the practical know-how to manage your career as a writer, and the ability to pitch your own initiatives, as well as work both as an individual writer and collaboratively with others.

Additional possible career trajectories include work as literary officers and agents, and within publishing, art journalism, dramaturgy and producing.

The University has its own dedicated Careers Service that you would have full access to as a student and for two years after you graduate. At Manchester you will have access to a number of opportunities to help boost your employability .